If you want to understand just how serious Marvel is, read any of their stuff that's supposed to be funny. Urk.
When I talk to DC readers, I hear them say things like, "my comics were so much fun this week!" (assuming, you know, that they think decapitations, eye-gougings, sunderance, and rape are "fun"). When I talk to Marvel fans, everything's about relative badassedness, which character can beat which, and how many pounds each can benchpress.
Marvel's characters can, for the most part, go in two very large boxes:
- Misunderstood Misfits of Limited Ability Struggling To Do What They Can In A World That Doesn't Appreciate Them and
- Unfathomable Cosmic Beings of Unimaginable Power and Sloganistic Absolutism.
Or, as I usually think of it, What Adolescents Feel Like and What Adolescents Want To Feel Like.
In either case, it's very serious. Adolescents like to be taken very seriously and to take everything else very seriously. Not like kids. Kids are only interested in "fun"; silly DC comics are just for kids.
What knocks off the socks of a Marvel reader? A story full of Insert Anti-Hero killing bad guys or Insert Hero's inability to pull his life together despite every possible advantage, including high intelligence and superpowers.
What knocks off the socks of a DC reader? One page of Dr. Virus with Kryptococcus the Omni-Germ or a cameo by Mr. Terrible.
Anyway, as a result of all this seriousnosity, Marvel takes things seriously that DC cannot, like Marvel's villains. If you try to imagine that Marvel villains were suddenly folded into the DCU or to identify the New Earth counterparts of the villains of "Earth 616" , and you get something like...
- The Jester becomes the Prankster
- The Green Goblin becomes the Trickster
- Doctor Doom becomes Doctor Domino
- The Purple Man becomes Dr. Psycho
- Stiltman becomes Kite-Man
- Mysterio becomes the Spook
- Modok becomes Hector Hammond
- Kraven becomes ... Vartox?
- Scorpion becomes Copperhead
- Boomerang becomes Captain Boomerang
- Beetle becomes Killer Moth
- Magneto becomes Dr. Polaris
- Galactus becomes Mr. Nebula
- Superskrull becomes Amazo
- Fing Fang Foom becomes Chemo
- Radioactive Man becomes Professor Radium
- Mandarin becomes Dr. Tzin Tzin
- Klaw becomes Sonar
- M'Baku the Man-Ape becomes the Ultrahumanite
- Juggernaut and Rhino and Hammerhead become ... well, I don't think DC has any characters whose power is running into stuff with their heads
- Others you will name in your comments on this post
I'm not saying Marvel's or DC's villains are "lame" (whatever that empty bit of teenage argot is supposed to mean). I'm not saying DC's villains aren't serious threats. Just from the above list, for example, Amazo, Chemo, and Dr. Psycho are quite threatening. But they have their lighter side (as befits Villains Whose Names End In "O").
I guess what I'm saying is:
- Marvel seems hestitant to show a lighter side to its villains for fear it might make it harder for their readers to take them seriously.
- DC seems insistent on showing a lighter side to its villains as a necessity in getting their readers to take them seriously.